The Franklins: Part I

Mr. Franklin was on the phone from the minute they came in. He walked into the waiting room ahead of his wife, not bothering to hold the door open for her, obviously assuming she would take care of everything.

It’s been a long couple of weeks.

I’ve gone through four assistants because they kept throwing themselves at my husband. Once, I even walked out of my office to find the current assistant naked and spread out on her desk, begging for Zeus to mate with her as a fox because she had a “furry fetish,” whatever that is. 

To his credit, Zeus just leaned against the opposite wall, enjoying the view. It took everything I had not to smite the woman where she lay. Thankfully, my son, Ares, happened to walk into my office at just the right time and ushered the woman out before I lost my temper. I still feel a little cheated that I didn’t get a chance to smite her. Perhaps I’m getting a little too complacent.

I managed to find the perfect assistant finally. Their name is Aphaid and they are an agender, asexual alien. Modern mortals are so confusing, but Aphaid doesn’t even bat a lash or skip a breath when Zeus comes into the room, and that means they’re a keeper. It has been fun watching Zeus try to get a reaction other than a blank stare from Aphaid.

Due to the…difficulties of finding the right assistant, I didn’t take on many cases at first. The ones I did were easy. Couples who still loved each other underneath it all, but had somehow lost their way. All I did was get them to talk about their feelings and show them how to find their way back to each other. So far, the business has been successful. 

At least it was until the Franklins came to see me.

Aphaid has a webcam on their computer that faces the waiting room and streams directly into my office, where I spend a few minutes observing the couples before our session. It gives me a chance to prepare properly. I’ve found that mortals will hide their true selves and be on their best behavior when sitting in my office. However, most don’t feel that behavior change should be affected in my waiting room. It’s amazing the way people behave when they don’t think they’re being watched. 

For the most part, my clients are nervous or anxious. They usually don’t really interact with each other, except with stilted small talk about whose turn it is to pick the kids up from school or what is needed from the grocery store. Sometimes, they’ll sit next to each other and hold hands. You can tell it’s awkward, but at least they’re trying.

The Franklins were different from the very beginning. As soon as they walked in, I got an instant message from Aphaid, telling me to watch the feed. I pulled it up, going over the numerous ways to punish Aphaid for the audacity of them demanding something of my time. As soon as the feed came up on my computer, I stopped thinking about Aphaid and my blood started boiling.

Mrs. Franklin checked them in, took the paperwork Aphaid gave her and sat down on the couch to fill it out. She was well put together but at the same time, she looked tired. I could see the bags under her eyes, the slump in her shoulders, the rising of her chest with deep intakes of breath. I also saw her cringe away from her husband every time he walked past her as he talked on his mobile phone.

Mr. Franklin was on the phone from the minute they came in. He walked into the waiting room ahead of his wife, not bothering to hold the door open for her, obviously assuming she would take care of everything. He didn’t spare even a half a second to acknowledge her or Aphaid in any way. It was as if no one existed except for him.

I took a deep breath and counted to a hundred. I didn’t need the oracle to know this mortal man was going to try my patience. I got up, straightened my suit jacket and opened the door. 

“Mr. and Mrs. Franklin, won’t you please come in.” I barely moved out of the way in time for Mr. Franklin to push through the door. Mrs. Franklin walked quietly behind him and offered a soft apology. I motioned to the couch. “Have a seat and we’ll get started.”

Mrs. Franklin sat immediately, but Mr. Franklin still hadn’t removed his phone from his ear. “Mr. Franklin, join your wife on the couch so we could get started, please.” I was especially proud of myself for adding that please in there. Demeter would be, too. She was forever trying to get me to be nicer to people.

Mr. Franklin continued to ignore me and while I was attempting niceness on occasion, this was no longer one of those moments. I refuse to be ignored, so I snapped my fingers in his face and when he finally acknowledged my existence with a frown, I smiled.

“There you are, Mr. Franklin. Please discontinue your call and join your wife and me.” See, another please. I’m growing. 

He looked at me, curled his lip, and went back to his conversation. So of course, I did what any self-respecting Goddess would do: I took his phone, walked over to my windows, and chucked it one-hundred stories to the street below. He’s lucky I only did that with his phone.

“Now we can begin. Sit down, Mr. Franklin. I won’t ask you again.” The look he gave me was calculating, wondering what else I might be capable of. He decided to choose another battle and sat on the opposite end of the couch from his wife. I saw her flinch when he sat down.

I sat down in the high backed throne chair I kept across from the couch and crossed my legs. I saw Mr. Franklin’s eyes travel over my body as he assessed me as a woman. I met his gaze without flinching and held it. Within moments, the fire behind my eyes caused him to look away.

“Now, why don’t we start with why you’re here today.” I saw Mrs. Franklin shrink further into the couch as if to become invisible.

“We’re here because my wife forgot her place and stopped doing what she was told.”

I felt my teeth grind together, but other than a slight twitch under my left eye that only a few knew to be wary of, I remained outwardly calm. “I see. Please tell me what you think her place is, Mr. Franklin.”

His lip lifted in a very unattractive sneer as he looked over at his wife, finally acknowledging her presence. “Her housekeeping skills are horrendous. Our children are ridiculously misbehaving. Her cooking is deplorable, and I hesitate every time I have to host a dinner for clients because I know she’ll find a way to screw it up somehow. Don’t even get me started on how boring she is in the bedroom.”

He crossed his arms in self-righteousness as his wife got smaller and smaller with each attacking word.

Hera (CJ Landry)
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